Our party and experiences?: We are traveling with five other couples from Central Ohio and one we hooked up with on the Norway cruise from the DC area. That adds to fun and sharing for this 14-day cruise to be with good friends and wonderful, smart people.
Our past cruising?: We have done just four cruises. Late June 2006 on 204-passenger Seabourn Spirit, Athens to Istanbul, enjoying the Greek Isles over seven days. Late July 2008 on the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony, Dover to Stockholm, enjoying the Baltics and Russia. July 1-16, 2010, was an adventure on the 296-passenger Silver Cloud from Copenhagen seeing the dramatic Norway coast, above the Arctic Circle, Land of the Midnight Sun, etc. Then, June, 2011 from Barcelona for Italy, the Croatian Coast on this same 2850-passenger Celebrity Solstice. All four lines are different and excellent with great service, fellow passengers, staff, etc. What’s best? The honest answer is . . . “It depends!!!”. Ports, schedules, timing and prices vary much, especially right now with this economy, high airlines costs, challenged dollar values, etc. You need to seek what best fits your exact personal needs, budget and interests. We enjoyed sampling a larger ship and we booked early for this early 2014 Australia-NZ trip to get the locations/rooms we desired.
KEY DOWN UNDER PLANNING QUESTION: It is a long, long way (plus costly) to get down to this unique part of the world. You do not just want to fly here, do a cruise and go back home. That's why you'll see that we planned out carefully our options and schedule for pre and post cruise. AND, you cannot do it "ALL" in Australia or New Zealand on your first trip. Big, big areas with lots of diversity and great places to experience. Fortunately, we were able to do most all of our 15 airline flights via American Airline Frequent Flyer miles, and First/Business class. That saved lots and lots of money and helps fly the long hours in better comfort.
Before arriving Sydney for our Jan. 20-Feb. 4 cruise, we departed Columbus on Thursday, Jan. 9 and had two nights and 1.5 days in Honolulu to break up these long flight times/distances, plus to be able to visit Hawaii for our first time. Then, we had three full days and four nights in NE Australia’s sub-tropical Cairns area, seeing the Great Barrier Reef, snorkeling the coral formations, hiking rainforests, visiting Port Douglas, etc. Then, going to southern Australia to visit Kangaroo Island, 70 miles southwest of Adelaide. More than half of this island has never been cleared of vegetation, and a quarter of it is conserved in National Parks, Conservation Parks, and five Wilderness Protection Areas. Our travel agent calls Kangaroo Island "the way Australia used to be before settlers from outside came”. She was right, but there is so, so much more there to learn about the wilds of Australia, it animals and birds, etc. Then, we are going this morning to Sydney on Sunday, Jan. 19 for 2.5 days before our Celebrity Solstice cruise ship departs from this super scenic harbor.
Here are the more complete cruise/port schedule during these fourteen days:
Jan. 20-21, 2014, Monday-Tuesday: Sydney, Australia; boarding cruise ship mid-day Monday, then after being docked overnight on this ship sitting next to the billowing white sail roofs of the famed (now forty-years-old) Opera House, we will sail away Tuesday at 6:30 pm. We will also be docked next to Sydney’s landmark, arched Harbour Bridge (famous for New Year’s Eve fireworks). Sydney is the South Pacific’s busiest port and one of the world’s most scenic harbors. Australia’s oldest and largest city was born in 1788 with the arrival of an initial 760 British convicts.
Jan 22, Wednesday: Cruising Tasman Sea south to Tasmania; sea day on Solstice.
Jan. 23, Thursday: Hobart, Tasmania, 8 am-6 pm docked. We will have a private tour to visit the Port Arthur penal colony with its historic reminders of its prison days, then to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary with wombats, emus and the famed Tasmanian devil, plus a little time to sample the 90 waterfront buildings with National Trust classification. As Australia’s second oldest city, Hobart has a a population of 214,000, sets in a scenic natural harbor and is at the base of the 3,600-feet-high Mount Wellington. Does an island with a name like Tasmania sound exotic?
Jan. 24-25, Friday-Saturday: Cruising Tasman Sea to New Zealand; two sea days on Solstice.
Jan. 26, Sunday: Cruising New Zealand’s Fiordlands National Park. We will get off of the Solstice in the morning during our visit in Milford Sound and go on a two-day ship excursion with an overnight stay in Queenstown. This community, with its dramatic setting on a large lake and facing a massive, sawtooth mountain range, is known as the “crazy capital of the world”. Why? This is where bungee jumping was invented 25 years ago. Plus, many other extreme sports started or are practiced here. We will stop and see the stone, suspension bridge crossing a scenic river gorge where it all started. But, no bungee jumping for us!! We will also see an old gold-rush town, a winery and a ranch sheep/dog program. Others on our ship will sail to Doubtful Sound & Dusky Sound. Lots of natural drama and sights here with the fjords, mountains, water views, etc.
Jan. 27, Monday: Dunedin, NZ, 9 am-7 pm docked. For those doing the Queenstown excursion, we will re-join the ship in this town that means Edinburgh in Gaelic. This town retains its Scottish roots and has Victorian/Edwardian architecture, a legacy of New Zealand's 1860’s gold rush.
Jan. 28, Tuesday: Christchurch/Akaroa, NZ, 8 am-6 pm tendered. Given the slow re-building after the major earthquake damage at Christchurch, we are not visiting this town. We will be taking the TranzAlpine rail trip to Arthur’s Pass National Park in NZ’s Southern Alps. We will then sample a high-speed JetBoat ride on the twisting Waimakiriri River gorge. We will also be sampling a little of this French-styled harbor town of Akaroa where our ship is tendered in its dramatic bay setting that is surrounded by mountains and major hills.
Jan. 29, Wednesday: Wellington, NZ, 8 am-6 pm docked. Hugging the hillsides around a horseshoe-shaped bay, Wellington reminds many visitors of San Francisco. It is the NZ capital and is the southern most capital city in the world. There are a number of different museums, dining and exploring options in and near Wellington. Have not finalized our exact plan for this day.
Jan. 30, Thursday: Napier, NZ, overlooking Hawke’s Bay, 8 am-6 pm docked. An elegant, art-deco city of 55,000, it has 19 miles to the south, Cape Kidnappers. This jagged promontory is near where Captain Cook anchored in 1769. Late January is the prime time to see here the 20,000 young and mature yellow-headed Australian gannets surf the wind currents. After the beach/cliff bird visit, we will head up above to a working sheep ranch and world-class golfing resort that overlooks this coastal setting for a private lunch of local specialities.
Jan. 31, Friday, Cruising NZ eastern coast; sea day on Solstice.
Feb 1, Saturday: Tauranga, NZ, 5:30 am-4:30 pm docked. This port is nearby for Rotorua, the geothermal wonderland that is also the heart of native Maori culture. We will visit Te Puia for a Maori concert. We will be focused in Rotorua that has been developed inside a crater. The area has 16 different lakes with dramatic scenery and wonderful photo opportunities.
Feb. 2, Sunday: Bay of Islands, NZ, tendered, 7 am-6 pm. About 110 miles north of Auckland, this historic bay/island region has a charm connected with its unspoiled, simple character. Our Central Ohio group will be doing a private sailing adventure on the 60’ racing yacht named the Zindabar. We will travel around and along these scenic coastal areas, stopping once or twice for beach exploring, snorkeling, swimming and having a custom luncheon at sea. Lots of options and flexibility for seeing bird, wildlife, coastal sights, etc.
Feb. 3, Monday: Auckland, NZ: arrive 6 am, completing our Solstice cruise trip. With 1.4 million residents, 31 percent of the country's population, Auckland is New Zealand’s largest, most urban city. It has a diverse population, including large numbers of Asian and Polynesian residents.
We will have two days in and around Auckland, including Tuesday visiting via a 40-minute ferry ride to Waiheke Island for their stunning coastal vistas, as well as hillside vineyards, sweeping sandy beaches, an outdoor sculpture garden and various quaint shops/art galleries.
Home? We depart Wednesday, Feb. 5, from Auckland and fly to Hawaii (at no extra flight cost due to using Frequent Flyer miles). This helps break up the long flight distances going back home. We will have four days on the Big Island there before returning to Columbus on Feb. 10.
To come next, earlier pictures/details from Hawaii, NE Australia and the Great Barrier Reef and then amazing Kangaroo Island near Adelaide.
Don't be shy!! Feel free to share your comments, insights, questions, etc. I love this "interactive" way of communicating back and forth. Our time sailing and touring will be a little limiting for being able answer all questions quickly, but I will try my best, especially on sea days on the ship. Love to get your feed-back, comments and suggestions based your experiences in these areas.
Ready to roll!!
THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio
Did a June 7-19, 2011, Celebrity Solstice cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Enjoyed great weather and a wonderful trip. Dozens of wonderful visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc., on these postings. We are now at 158,547 views for this live/blog re-cap on our first sailing with Celebrity and much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:
For details and visuals, etc., from our July 1-16, 2010, Norway Coast/Fjords/Arctic Circle cruise experience from Copenhagen on the Silver Cloud, check out this posting. This posting is now over 131,830 views.